‘Warning’ or ‘Turning’ in Isaiah 8.11

This text-critical problem has been my hobby horse for a while now. I’ve posted on the problem before, but since then I have changed my mind and completely reworked my paper as a critique of the solution offered by the Comité pour l’analyse textuelle de l’Ancien Testament hébru. I presented this last semester in the Isaiah seminar at SBTS, and I am posting it here for feedback. Though I have revised and rewritten the paper several times, it is still technically under construction. So whether you agree or disagree, your comments are welcome.
You can access the paper here. Below, I’ve included a portion of my introduction and conclusion without the footnotes:

In 1969 the United Bible Society launched the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (HOTTP). As an aid to their translators, six scholars were commissioned to analyze roughly 5,000 of the most significant text critical problems in the Hebrew Bible. Dominique Barthélemy drafted the committee’s “final report” in his magisterial four-volume Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament. This paper is a critique of the committee’s report on וְיִסְּרֵנִי in Isaiah 8:11. The Masoretic Text reads as follows:

כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה אֵלַי כְּחֶזְקַת הַיָּד וְיִסְּרֵנִי מִלֶּכֶת בְּדֶרֶךְ הָעָם־הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר

The HOTTP committee proposed repointing the form as a hiphil wayyiqtol from סור (“and he turned me”). Barthélemy concludes as follows: “The reading וַיְסִירֵנִי, read here by Symmachus, appeared preferable to the committee, as holding an intermediate position between that of MT and those of 1Q-a and G…”

I propose, against Barthélemy, that MT’s וְיִסְּרֵנִי is the more original reading—a qalwəyiqtol 3ms of יסר, “to warn, instruct”… Reading ויסרני as a form of יסר allows one to better explain how the alternative readings might have arisen, and the form וְיִסְּרֵנִי, a qal wəyiqtol, can be translated in the context of Isaiah 8:11 in a way that fits with the conventions of Classical Hebrew syntax.

John Meade on Isaiah 40:7-8

John Meade has posted the first of a four part series discussing an important textual problem associated with Isaiah 40:7-8. He doesn’t communicate with the world via the Twitter bird, so I thought I would post a notice here and tweet for him. If you are interested in textual criticism, this series will be a helpful example of how to think through the issues. If you have questions or disagree with John on some point, feel free to leave a comment on his posts. He is a nice guy, ready and willing to interact.

Concerning his plan for the series, he says in the first post,

I will present the texts in this post and the two theories used to explain the textual situation. In a second post, I will present the interpretation of Eugene Ulrich, “The Developmental Composition of the Book of Isaiah: Light from 1QIsaa on Additions in the MT,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8,3 (2001): 288-305. In a third post, I want to convey some of the main ideas in a recent article by Drew Longacre, “Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34-66,” Dead Sea Discoveries 20 (2013): 17-50. In a fourth post, I will offer my own conclusion to this textual problem.

The Challenge of Reading the Greek Old Testament

It is hard to break the habit of reading the Greek Old Testament merely as a witness to a Hebrew Vorlage. Tessa Rajak puts it poignantly,

Because of the complexity of its relationship with a range of Hebrew precursors, because of the sheer number of recensions which the Greek text underwent, and because of our lack of grip on the scope and purpose of these, the textual history is one of mind-bending difficulty. Naturally, then, the Septuagint has been a hunting ground for textual critics, and at times in the past it was virtually abandoned by scholars with other kinds of interests, to remain the exclusive preserve of the textual critics–probably without too much regret. (19)

Several weeks back, Ken Penner pushed the LXX-Isaiah-in-a-year Facebook group to try to do a little more, to make observations about the Greek text itself. This encouragement has lingered in the back of my mind ever since. I picked up Rajak’s book in hopes that it might serve as a model. She writes,

Suffice it to say that here I do not foreground the issues which have dominated, at a guess, 90 per cent of Septuagint scholarship for the past century-and-a-half, and that have deterred even the more adventurous from entering wholeheartedly into other important and interesting questions. One needs to be aware of the instability of the text and to understand how to handle it. But I contend that it is possible to write about the history of the translations without engaging in continual text-critical study–and without waiting another hundred and fifty years… In many places there are no variants. Broad tranches of wording stay constant across textual diversity. Another point on which I lean is that at any one place and time people had their own conception of the original work of the Alexandrian translators, whether or not they could be sure that the text in front of them was that text; and that conception is eminently worth discussing. (20)

Tessa Rajak. Translation and Survival : The Greek Bible of the Ancient Jewish Diaspora. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Electronic Göttingen LXX On Sale

This sale is quite a deal. On Friday, 2/8/13, International Septuagint Day, Logos’s electronic Göttingen LXX will be available for $369. Use the coupon code LXXDay2013 at checkout. Every published volume is included. Even if you do not have a Logos base package, this is the sort of resource that would be worth purchasing as a stand alone product. Abram has the scoop. See his blog for a very nice review of the electronic version of the Göttingen LXX  in Logos and Accordance.
My Göttingen Logos Layout

Here is a screen shot illustrating how the Göttingen text and apparatuses can be displayed alongside BHS (click the images to zoom in):

Gottingen Layout
Gottingen Layout

In this layout, the Göttingen text is linked to both the apparatuses and the BHS text (notice the little orange and white “A” in the top left corner of each window). If I type in a verse reference (e.g. Gen 1:1) and hit enter, each window automatically jumps to that passage, even if it is in different Göttingen volume. For example in the screen shot above, I am in Isaiah 1:1. When I type in Genesis 1:1 and hit enter, this is what I see:

Gottingen Layout II
Gottingen Layout II

The Göttingen text and apparatuses immediately moved from Ziegler’s Isaiah volume to Wevers’ Genesis volume.  This is one of the many advantages of the electronic edition–seamless navigation through the entire series.

MT and the “Oldest Text” of Jeremiah

Last week in our Hebrew syntax class we finished going through Jonah, and during the last few minutes of class we read through a passage in Jeremiah. At the end of class, a student raised  his hand and said,

“I heard that the oldest text of Jeremiah does not include certain messianic passages. Is this true?”

I told him I would put together some information over the weekend. The result: an introduction to the challenges associated with comparing the MT text of Jeremiah with that of the LXX and Dead Sea Scrolls. I’ve tried my best to keep this from being a “data dump.” The key points of each section are underlined. Hopefully, a bit of the complexity of the problem is presented, while keeping the discussion accessible to students with as little as two semesters of Hebrew.

Thanks to Abram K-J, Ryan Vasut, Matt Miller, and Jerod Harper for taking the time to look over and comment helpfully on an earlier draft of this handout.

“All Roads of LXX Studies Lead Back to Origen”

What does it mean that all roads of Septuagint studies lead back to Origen?
Dines states it nicely,

Origen had not intended his work to be used indiscriminately; it was to help users of the Bible who needed a clearer picture of the text in order to gain access to the Hebrew, whether for debate or for pastoral and homiletic purposes. However methodologically unacceptable by modern standards, his was a work of meticulous scholarship, undertaken, one guesses, largely from love of the textual enterprise itself.

But it was not long before things got out of hand: copies of the hexaplaric edition were made in which the critical marks were inaccurately copied, or not copied at all, probably because scribes did not understand their significance. The end result was that the clear distinctions between original LXX and versions in the Hexapla itself, not to mention Origen’s own rearrangements, became blurred so that what now passed for ‘the LXX’ was in fact a badly corrupted text.

Jennifer Mary Dines, The Septuagint (T&T Clark, 2004), 102.

Prophetic Literature and Persecution

I’ve said a few times that if Christians in America ever experience more explicit, intense persecution, we will rediscover the true meaning and purpose of the biblical prophetic literature.
It was interesting to read a similar thought from Jennifer Dines concerning the “prophetic gap.” If the Pentateuch was translated in the mid-second century B.C.E. and the prophetic books began to be translated in the mid-second century, as many think, then what’s up with the 100 year gap? Dines reasons,

The third century had been a relatively stable time, but the second century was marked by power struggles between the Ptolemies and Seleucids and, for Jews, by the Maccabean Revolt and its consequences. It was a time of turmoil, uncertainty and conflicting loyalties, both within and without Judaism (cf. Wevers 1988: 29). Perhaps a need was felt for the old prophets to speak to a new generation, and this led to their rediscovery, their updating and, in Greek-speaking Judaism, their translation. Perhaps  the prophetic message had not seemed so pressing in the third century. This is speculative, but the time-lapse requires explanation.

Jennifer Mary Dines, The Septuagint (T&T Clark, 2004), 50.

Why not Greek “Targums”?

There is a general consensus among scholars that the first first few books of the Septuagint were translated in the early- to mid-third century B.C.E in Alexandria.
In her concise little Introduction to the Septuagint, Jennifer Dines ponders,

Why were written Scriptures needed, or permitted, in Greek at a time when they were not, apparently, in Aramaic? Why could there not have been oral Greek paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures in Egypt which might eventually have resulted in written Greek ‘Targums’?

Her conclusion is intriguing:

Alexandria (assuming the whole enterprise to have started there) provided a literate, cosmopolitan culture, where ‘everyone who was anyone’ came to study, and where debating and writing were second nature. Alexandrian Judaism may have almost accidentally pioneered a new stage in the history of the Bible in response to the excitement of living in a educated milieu which expressed iteself in written words . . . This was a moment of creative genius from which the LXX emerged as something generically new: not quite like a legislative document, not quite like a metaphrase of Homer, not quite an exegetical rewriting, but exhibiting features of all these genres. The first translators made serious use of all of them as appropriate ways of rendering the holy books in use within their communities, and in doing so perhaps attracted the interest of the wider world as well.

Jennifer Mary Dines, The Septuagint (T&T Clark, 2004), 6061.

A Lexicographer’s Favorite Verses


Anyone with the slightest bit of experience doing word studies knows what a wearisome task the lexicographer has.
Today, as my mind wandered from the task at hand, I flipped through the front pages of Takamitsu Muraoka’s Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. What verses did he choose to include at the end of his Introduction (page XVII)?

ἄνθρωπος γεννᾶται κόπῳ
Man is born to toil. (Job 5.7)

χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι,
καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη,
ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα,
οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλ᾿ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί.

It is by God’s grace that I am what I am today, and His grace for me has not been wasted, but rather I toiled more than all of them put together, yet not I, but God’s grace which is ever with me. (1 Cor 15.10)

οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα
I have not run in vain nor have I toiled in vain. (Phil 2.16)

I read these old, familiar words in a new light today — from the perspective of an accomplished, therefore wearied, lexicographer.